A senior U.S. official says the United States is prepared to help finance the withdrawal of the remaining Russian troops from Georgia.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe said Tuesday in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, that Washington has assisted withdrawals in the past and would be happy to do so again. Mr. Pascoe said Washington's main concern is the issue of military bases in areas where they are not welcome. He addressed a news conference after talks with interim Georgian President Nino Burjanadze.
Russia has two of its four Soviet-era bases left in Georgia and says it will take at least 10 years to complete the process of pulling out, a timeframe Georgia calls unacceptable.
The troops have been an issue of contention between the nations. Russia's Foreign Ministry Tuesday warned Georgia that any provocation against the bases could have "far-reaching consequences."
The warning came after a Georgian politician, Nodar Natadze, called for action against the bases to force their closure.
At today's news conference, interim President Burjanadze said the withdrawal would greatly improve relations between Russia and Georgia.
Georgian President-elect Mikhail Saakashvili, who takes office January 25, also has called for Russian troops to withdraw from the small Caucasus nation.
Meanwhile, the United States has announced it will provide $3 million for a U.S.-supported program to train Georgian soldiers.